International forskning

Physicians’ experiences, attitudes, and beliefs towards medical cannabis: a systematic literature review

Sabrina Trappaud Rønne, Frederik Rosenbæk, Line Bjørnskov Pedersen, Frans Boch Waldorff, Jesper Bo Nielsen, Helle Riisgaard, Jens Søndergaard

Research Unit of General Practice, Department of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark. The Research Unit for General Practice and Section of General Practice, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen. Department of Public Health, DaCHE – Danish Centre for Health Economics, University of Southern Denmark.


Background: An increasing number of countries legalise the use of medical cannabis or allow it for a narrow range of medical conditions. Physicians, and often the patients’ general practitioner, play a major role in implementing this policy. Many of them, however, perceive a lack of evidence-based knowledge and are not confident with providing patients with medical cannabis. The objectives of this review are to synthesise findings about hospital physicians’ and GPs’ experiences, attitudes, and beliefs towards the use of medical cannabis with the purpose of identifying barriers and facilitators towards providing it to their patients. Methods: Peer-reviewed articles addressing hospital physicians’ and GPs’ experiences, attitudes, and beliefs towards the use of medical cannabis were searched systematically in PubMed, Scopus, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library. Results: Twenty-one articles were included from five different countries in which the medical cannabis laws varied. The studied physicians experienced frequent inquiries about medical cannabis from their patients (49–95%), and between 10 and 95% of the physicians were willing to prescribe and/or provide it to the patients, depending on setting, specialty and experience among the physicians. This review found that physicians experienced in prescribing medical cannabis were more convinced of its benefits and less worried about adverse effects than non-experienced physicians. However, physicians specialized in addiction treatment and certain relevant indication areas seemed more sceptical compared to physicians in general. Nevertheless, physicians generally experienced a lack of knowledge of clinical effects including both beneficial and adverse effects. Conclusion: This review indicates that GPs and hospital physicians from various specialties frequently experience patient demands for medical cannabis and to some degree show openness to using it, although there was a wide gap between studies in terms of willingness to provide. Hospital physicians and GPs’ experienced in prescribing are more convinced of effects and less worried of adverse effects. However, most physicians experience a lack of knowledge of beneficial effects, adverse effects and of how to advise patients, which may comprise barriers towards prescribing. More research, including larger studies with cohort designs and qualitative studies, is needed to further examine facilitators and barriers to physicians’ prescribing practices. Keywords: Medical cannabis, Physicians, Attitudes, Experiences, Barriers, Facilitators